A couple of weeks ago a new marina was opened in Manchester, in the area which used to be known as Ancoats but which is being re-branded as New Islington. As we have no plans of taking our boat up that way in the near future we decided to walk up the towpath from Castlefield and have a look.
We started at Lock 92 which is beside the famous Dukes 92 and Albert’s Shed pub/restaurants. There are no bye-washes on this stretch of canal so the water level is always slightly higher than the lock gates which make them difficult to open.
Once you’ve cleared Lock 92 you pass through Deansgate Tunnel which is illuminated by colour changing lights and takes you underneath Deansgate to Lock 91 which again has an amazing waterfall flowing over the gates.
This then brings you up next to the area known as Deansgate Locks. The Comedy Store and several bars and restaurants overlook the canal and at weekends it’s a very busy area.
You can walk along the towpath as far as Canal Street where it disappears so you have to leave the canal and walk along the road between locks. Canal Street is the ‘Gay’ area of Manchester and a few years ago, following a couple of deaths when drunks fell into the canal, they installed new railings all along the street.
Whilst it seems a bit excessive, it actually adds to the ambience of the area as many of the bars have now installed seating areas outside overlooking the canal. At one time Canal Street was quite an intimidating place but in recent years it’s cleaned up it’s image tremendously and during the day it’s a nice, safe and friendly place to walk through. I can imagine it’s a bit different on a Saturday night though.
To reach Lock 85 you pass through another tunnel under the main road and office blocks above.
This used to be the most notorious of the locks on this section of the canal as years ago it was frequented by ‘rent boys’ and drug dealers. Again it’s quite different these days. The lock area is fully illuminated and covered by CCTV cameras.
The dark corners where the undesirables used to congregate have all been filled in, the lock itself looks more like an indoor swimming pool and there’s a brightly painted mural alongside.
We carried on up the canal passing derelict properties and beautifully restored ones too.
The new marina might have been opened to boats for a couple of weeks but it still looks like a building site. Having looked at it online before we went I was expecting more and was quite disappointed.
We could only look through the very considerable railings as only moorers are allowed inside and the whole place looks very grim. New Islington as an area looks like it won’t be much better than the Ancoats area it's supposed to replace. The housing they are building is awful and looks like a slum in the making. The mooring fees might be extremely cheap at £1500 a year for a 60ft boat but you won’t find us going there!
The Ashton Canal isn’t far away so we walked over for a look at some of the modern buildings they have built alongside it and then headed back to Castlefield.